The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Monday, September 07, 2015

Don't Panic Mr Mainwaring

My sweater test is progressing well. Really pleased to have got 6 testers - all sizes except XXL are covered, as are both pocket options.

My shawl test for Petalous has a week to go, four out of five testers finished in super quick time.

and I completed my shawl with my yarn support yarn:

The pattern has been written up as much as possible but I am still awaiting the return of my 'proper' laptop from having the keyboard replaced (luckily still under warranty) which has my charting software. Still not quite sure how chartable this is...

Whizzed through a mohair wrap to use up some of my stash mohair mountain. A little depressing to not really notice a difference in how much I have left considering it measures 65 x 18". I have written the pattern up but not sure whether or not to publish it...

And I'm still waiting for my laptop although apparently it is 'ready for dispatch'. So I have started on a new version of one of my cabled sweaters from a couple of years ago...

And honed my 'drop down and re-knit' skills when I noticed a mis-crossed cable in the centre panel of the back 33 rounds down :(

I have to say I am quite impressed with myself for a) not throwing it into the naughty corner b) not ripping it right back c) having confidence that I could do it
I did, however, swear a bit...

To fix:
1) Don't panic
2) Place stitches either side of the panel on the cable of spare circular needles
3) Unravel the panel 1 row at a time down to the row in disgrace, keeping the strands as separate and in order as possible
4) place errant row on straight needle and undo a stitch at a time until the naughty cable is undone
5) knit back up using the correct strand for each row

I used straight needles up until the last 3 or so stitches where I swapped to using a crochet hook as the remaining 'strand' of yarn was too short to easily manipulate. For the rows where those stitches were purls it was easier to turn the sweater around to 'knit' them on the wrong side. I evened out the tension if either end of the row was loose by manually pulling up the slack and working my way stitch my stitch across the row until I had no more slack. Transfer the stitches back to the other straight needle which also helps to even the tension and repeat.

It took a few hours but saved many more...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

That Touch of Pink

I have made myself a lot of sweaters. And I mean a lot. If you look on my Ravelry projects page I have 30 sweaters/cardigans/jackets. A handful were added retrospectively, but the majority were from April 2011 onwards... And I had been knitting sweaters for many years prior to that...

Eleven of those sweaters were my own designs, mainly to use up oddments of stash.

And now my twelfth Ravelry sweater design, That Touch of Pink (yes - I am a Cary Grant fan), may make it out into the wider knitting community.

I actually knew what I wanted the bottom 'third' of the sweater to look like, therefore the sweater would be designed bottom up. Once I had completed that section I knew that I wanted it to be plain to the armholes, seamless and set-in sleeves therefore the body was knit in the round up to the armholes. I also don't have a waist that I want to highlight... Next decision was neckline. Not a V-neck and not a crew neck and not too low either... and just a touch more contrast colour. Top-down sleeves to match the contrast colour stripes on the bottom of the sweater and cuffs to match the neckband.
I was not happy with the first sleeve I made - it was very messy/gappy around the armhole due to the much lower ratio of stitches to rows being picked up. I came up with a much neater solution for the second sleeve which also solved the issues I have with getting wrap and turn to look good. It was well worth the effort of then ripping out the first one and re-knitting it...

Okay, I now have a sweater that I love but that was the easy-ish part...

1. Grading. And this means spreadsheets. And I went to town on this. Starting with the basic desired widths/lengths for body/armholes/neck/shoulders/upper arm/wrist/sleeve for 5 sizes. Every section broken down into subsections for row counts, stitch counts, decreases, pick-up stitches, stripes start, stripes end, short rows with cross-checks.

2. Yarn yardage estimates. Having read a few forum threads on this topic I decided that I wasn't going to use the suggested method of estimating sweater area against the yardage from a 6 x 6" swatch. I had an actual sweater with known yardage of both colours. I had a detailed spreadsheet so I could calculate actual stitch counts pretty accurately for every section of the sweater/size and also for just the contrast colour and use the ratios of stitches for the other sizes against my yardages. My only concern is how much contingency to add...

3. Schematic. Yes, every good sweater pattern should have one... I watched a video on creating one in Microsoft something or other. We use LibreOffice which has a Draw app. Took me a few hours before I finally got the hang of it and a couple of shout outs to Paul when it wasn't doing what I wanted. Changed a couple of settings and all was fine once I was organised enough to actually write down the key measurements on a piece of paper. I am actually quite chuffed with how it looks.

4. Tech editing. However thorough I think I have been there is always the chance I have made a blunder somewhere... Sent the pattern to be scrutinized and am awaiting news...

5. Testing. Once I get it back and any corrections have been done I will open a test. I already have 3 volunteers without putting out a call :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Not Even a Fish

Yarn support for my knitwear designs was something I had never contemplated.

Why would anyone want to give me yarn? I am relatively new to designing - not one of the big names, not a big fish in a small pond. In the infamous words of Claude Littner on the Apprentice I am not even a fish...

So when I received a message out of the blue from Lael and Larry from Hearthside Fibers saying they loved my designs and were interested in offering yarn support I was in shock. We exchanged emails over the next couple of days, and the bottom line is that this arrived in the post today...

along with some small tester samples of their other yarns.

I am currently working on my first sweater design that I am hoping to publish. I have made many sweaters for myself in the past but they only had to (sort of) fit me! It's a whole different ball park having to write it up properly and grade it for other sizes.

This is where I have got to so far... Maybe I could leave it like this for the distressed look...

Maybe not.

Once I have finished this I will turn my attention to the above two skeins :)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Knitwear Designs in Action

I have a lot of very similar photos for my designs, trying to get one or two that I am happy with to use for my patterns.

And while Paul was getting my new travel laptop/notebook hybrid loaded with all that I need and a gazillion Windows updates Google Photos decided to play and made some animations with them...

I think Geoidh may have been more successful if I could have used this on the pattern page...

                               Bellatrix - 1, 2, 3, 4 and strike a pose.

But there are downsides. My chicken impersonation...

And finally... I love the way it appears to shrug its shoulders.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pick Your Own 2015

I discovered last year that one of my blackcurrant bushes was actually a redcurrant bush. However, I never got to pick any redcurrants as when I went out to do so I found the birds had beaten me to it.

A year on and the bush has matured, and there is enough fruit for all.

I should be able to make it up to a pound over the next couple of days - 10 grammes shy.

However, to get to the redcurrants at the back I first had to pick the blackcurrants that were blocking my route.

I thought they were prolific last year, but compared to this year they were positively sparse!

Over a kilo picked just from the branches that were in the way and overhanging the lawn. I would guess I have only picked about 20%...

I have also pulled out a sack load of the tall weeds that were growing through the bush hiding the cornucopia.

And now I can see the apples growing around the edge of the wall and needing summer pruning...

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Vikkel Braid Unravelled

So I came across these in a Ravelry discussion and decided to investigate further...

Vikkel Braids

Also known as Lateral Braids and Estonian Braids, they form horizontal stitches across your knitting.

On investigation of this technique I found many videos, tutorials and blogs on the how - as in the mechanics below. But none on understanding, in the words of the immortal Abbott and Costello, Who's on first, What's on Second.

The How
Start by making 1 stitch and place it on the lh needle. At the start of the row you can just do a knitted cast on of a stitch. Otherwise I prefer to do a M1R. I found just doing an M1 by knitting the loop between the stitches made the first braid stitch more of a drunken diagonal than horizontal.
Now repeat the following 4 steps:                                                              Mantra
1. ktbl of the second stitch on the lh needle                                            2 Back
2. knit the first stitch on the lh needle                                                      1 Front
3. Slip both stitches off the lh needle                                                        Slip 2 off
4. Place the first stitch on the rh needle back on the lh needle            Put 1 back
until you want to finish the braid. 

Assuming you are braiding across the whole row and maintaining the stitch count this will be when there is 1 unworked stitch on the lh needle without doing the last step 4. You need to decrease 1 stitch to counteract that first new stitch you made so just knit the next stitch on the lh needle and pass the previous stitch over it.

If you are wanting to increase 1 stitch at either end of your row (e.g. for a top down shawl) then when the only stitch on your lh needle is the one just placed there from the last step 4 knit it through the front and back.

Who's on first, What's on Second
Understanding how the braids and live stitches are formed opens up multiple possibilities when working with more than one colour.

The first stitch on the lh needle will become a braid stitch when it is dropped from the needle in the next step 3. Therefore always use the colour you want your braid to start with for your 'make 1' starting stitch. The yarn used to ktbl the second stitch on the lh needle will become the live stitch on the rh needle. When finishing the braid always use the required live stitch colour to work the last stitch on the lh needle.

The table below shows the flavours I came up with for working with two colours (MC – main colour, CC – contrast colour) with single colour or 1-stitch alternating colours of either braids, live stitches or both. The Stitch 1 and 2 columns give the sequence of the yarn to use to knit those stitches as you work across the row.

Make st
Stitch 1
(Step 2)
Stitch 2
(Step 1)
CC braid, MC live stitches
MC braid, CC live stitches
MC/CC alternating braid, MC live stitches
CC/MC alternating braid, MC live stitches
MC/CC alternating braid, CC live stitches
CC/MC alternating braid, CC live stitches
MC braid, alternating MC/CC live stitches
MC braid, alternating CC/MC live stitches
CC braid, alternating MC/CC live stitches
CC braid, alternating CC/MC live stitches
Alternating MC/CC braid and CC/MC live stitches
Alternating CC/MC braid and MC/CC live stitches
Alternating MC/CC braid and MC/CC live stitches
Alternating CC/MC braid and CC/MC live stitches

           A             B          C       D             E            F            G          H                  I             J            K

The pairs of C & D, E & F, G & H, I & J, K&L and M&N are essentially the same, just changing which colour starts the alternating stitches, but you may prefer one over the other if you have an odd number of stitches and depending on how you are proceeding after the braid. I haven't swatched L-N but I think you get the idea...

White is always the main colour in the photo. I switched contrast colour as the first one was not showing up very well.

Other things to note are that the live stitches above the braid are slightly elongated. Also you are better off taking it slow and steady – these are not the easiest things to tink back because of the twisted stitches and especially so when using two colours. 

Friday, May 01, 2015

NICs 2 See You

It is just over one year since I started publishing and selling my patterns on Ravelry.

I haven't set the world alight but I am pretty satisfied with my humble offerings. I have had a few patterns which in my terms I count as successful. Other more established designers would consider them flops but it all comes down to perspective and expectation. I have had a few that even I call flops even though I and my testers loved them...

I don't know if I just picked a bad year to start but the EU has caused a lot of headaches and sleepless nights. Firstly was the changes to Consumer Rights for digital downloads. A piece of cake compared to the new EU VAT laws...

I cannot retire on my profits to the Bahamas. Indeed, why would I when I am already happily retired in the Scottish Borders.

So as my total annual income is still under the tax limit the last thing I was expecting was the bill that arrived through the post today demanding £159 in National Insurance contributions with menaces...

Paul is away but I could hear his voice in my head saying 'Phone them'. So I did.

After having a sort of conversation with an automated droid I was put on hold with the most excruciatingly awful music, interrupted every 20 seconds or so to be told someone would be with me as soon as possible...

Well, after about 20 minutes I needed to pee but there was no way I was going to hang up to then have to restart the procedure...

Luckily no one came on the line at that point in time...

Another 10 minutes and at last I got to speak to a real person.

Letters are apparently automatically generated and I guess are just based on the assumption that you are over the minimum profit threshold.

Advice given. Send the bill back with a covering letter saying you wish to waiver the bill on the grounds of low income with a 3 line accounts summary of Gross Income, Expenses and Net Profit/Loss.

This hopefully shouldn't be necessary in the future as NI contributions are going to be included in the self assessment tax form.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Back to Words

Decision was made at the New Year to get back to word studying and see how it goes.

So I started with the 4s. And sort of fell out of study mode pretty quickly as I had the idea for my Studded Diamonds Hat and Cowl.

And then I had an idea for my Love Hearts socks...

These are all in test mode now so I got back to zyzzyva.

Completed going through the 4s - wow, am I rusty.
The last week I have started on the 7s and 8s in playability order, 500 of each a day which actually works out as nearer 650 of each as unlike probability order there is a lot of repetition with the multiple anagram questions. 7s not too bad but 8s are taking a lot longer.

Played my first games since the Commonwealth tourney yesterday against Allan. Honours even at 2-2. Off to Edinburgh tomorrow for my first test - 7 games tourney - in preparation for the Scottish Masters the weekend after. Gonna be tough...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

So I Had an Idea...

I have recently done a few designs to use up scraps which have involved slipped stitches. Which got me thinking... The row gauge for slipped stitches is a lot tighter than straight knitting or stranded knitting. So playing about with it could allow some quite fun results.

So I swatched a bit to see what effects I could achieve. And I am quite excited to find you can get very intricate looking patterns with a few basic rules that must be obeyed.

I have charted up and made my first non-stranded 'fairisle' hat sample and am currently knitting the matching cowl. I will post photos later...

My other design currently being tested is my 'Tudor' hat and Cowl set. It uses an adaptation for knitting in the round of the Tudor Grillwork pattern from my Second Treasury of Knitting patterns by Barbara Walker. Just what every stylish bank robber needs :)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Life and Death in Todheugh

The Good - first snowdrops of the year spotted a couple of days ago:

The Bad - beech tree split it two from the gale force winds two nights ago:

and The Ugly - drowned mice in my upside down bell cloches:

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Indie GAL Lives On

The Indie GAL officially ended at the New Year but there are still a lot of us continuing on with WIPs and patterns won/bought. And a lot of chatting...

I am working on my Bewitching Hour gloves, one of the freebie patterns I chose from my prize vouchers:

and I still have three more vouchers to claim.

I also won two skeins of gorgeous yarn (Rapture) from Squoosh Fiberarts - I can't say how happy I am. I have chosen colurways Cognac and Red Maple.

The switch over to LoveKnitting has gone relatively smoothly - I have even had my first EU sale.

The start of the year has been busy with two new patterns published already, and three more being tested.

The scarf I designed for Paul, Seriously Stripey Scarf, was published on the 2nd:

Still waiting for my new release, When the Wind Blows hat, to reach Published status on LK  but there are a lot of us adding patterns onto the site so I think they have been inundated...

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 A Year of Knitting

Another year over and what have you done?

Well, this is my annual year of knitting photo :)

1 sweater, 1 blanket, 1 table runner, 1 pair of gloves, 5 hats, 6 face cloths, 7 cowls, 8 scarves, 8 shawls and 9 pairs of socks,

I started self publishing my own patterns earlier this year and have learnt a lot. A lot of it I didn't want to learn. A new EU directive came into force not long after I started wrt Consumer Rights which meant a lot of stress trying to ensure I was compliant. And then the stress of the new EU VAT regulations that came into being today...

Ravelry have been wonderful in partnering with LoveKnitting to let us divert our EU sales so that nano-businesses like me can continue trading without having to sort out the nightmare of determining customers location, storing data for 10+ years, VAT registering and having to submit quarterly VAT and MOSS returns for very small amounts of money...

At the end of this year I have 20 published patterns - far more than I had imagined I could achieve in 9 months.

I have started my own Ravelry group, Helen Gipson Designs, which was kind of scary but most of the people who I asked have joined, some more have come along and now I have a happy band of testers.

I invested in charting software, StitchMastery, at the end of September which has been worth every penny in producing more professional looking knitting charts although I was kind of fond of my colour coded spreadsheet charts :)

And now I have to decide on how much time I use knitting/designing and how much time to dedicate back to word studying as that was put on the back burner for most of last year.

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